If you spend much time in the Christian faith, you will quickly become aware of the common disciplines that we as a people attribute to the strength of our relationship with God:
- reading the Bible
- attending church
These things are good. I have been in church my whole life and I wouldn’t cross a single thing off that list—I would probably even add a few. I cherish the foundations I was given and the emphasis on certain pillars of the faith. I found myself leaning on these things to get me through tragic times in my past when I had no emotion left to be led into an encounter with God. I relied on the rhythm of daily prayer to keep me attached to God when I was operating out of hurt and making choices that were not His best for me. These disciplines saved me when I was a shell of a woman in a spiritual coma.
Although they were a lifeline at one point in my life, I hope that I am coming at them from a different angle with my kids. As a child, I was taught the disciplines as the pathway to holiness. I was pressured to do these things out of loyalty to God—a respect for the religion of Christianity—not from an outpouring of my love for Him, or even a celebration of His love for me.
If you spend your days perfecting a discipline to ensure that it is engrained in your being, you have fallen prey to religion. This thing that you look to perfect, will become what you anchor your hope. You stir up a sense of entitlement that if you hold up your end of the bargain—if you execute your discipline—things will go your way. You enclose yourself in a fortress of manmade accomplishments. Pride and pious thinking creep in like fog in the evening. They shroud your fortress to keep humility far from it’s doors. As the walls grow and get stronger, it becomes harder and harder for you to fathom that you are living anything but a holy life. The Enemy has been given space in your heart because he has become your biggest cheerleader. He pats you on the back and sings your praises for the work you are doing for God. Standing tall and strong for righteousness and hating all those deplorable actions of those who “claim” to love God.
The heartbreak of it all is that you have accidentally changed masters. You now serve holiness. You are seeking to be holy out of fear of being perceived as unholy, not out of adoration for your savior. These small pivots of the heart, these 1° changes in direction are hard to spot.
The reality is God doesn’t want your disciplines if they come from a place in your heart that says, “I’ve done these things—thus, I have earned your goodness.” The order is important. He wants you to long to be about His business and His purpose. This may require you to get in His word, or worship, or give sacrificially. He is not so one dimensional that you are going to be able to anticipate what He wants from you every single day. Disciplines have a strange allure to them that says you have all the tools and methods needed to create a holy life.
Having daily habits are great. I like routine as much as the next guy (okay, maybe not my type B will not be denied). We must examine our intent and be open to redirection in our motivation for the disciplines of the faith. Holy Spirit can bring this to our attention if we ask. We may also get a small conviction while reading God’s word or in a random conversation that we have with a friend.
The truth is Christianity was never meant to be a religion. It was freedom from the bonds of religion and an invitation to a relationship. We need to keep the religious habits in proper perspective. Jesus said in Matthew 6:33 to, “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” The Message version refers to His Kingdom as God-reality, God-initiative, and God-provisions. The best way to do this is through the channels of the disciplines listed above! The key difference—and the point I am trying to make is that you need the active relationship with the Holy Spirit to orchestrate those disciplines in such a way that you get the most out of them for the season you are in. Seek His presence and will for your time with Him first and the discipline will be a by-product of your time with him. Just seeking and asking each day what thing to dive into (worship, praying, reading the Word) will be great for your prayer life. Being led to a passage or book of the bible to camp out in is one way to be strengthened in your ability to hear Holy Spirit’s voice. Being led to listen to worship music and just sit is the discipline of quieting your spirit.
Whatever you feel more drawn to (by the Holy Spirit), go and be free to saturate yourself with it. Do not worry about the other disciplines or see them as tasks to be completed. They are by-products of the intimacy. We are to become Christ like. If you search the scriptures, you will not find a point-blank formula for holiness outside of accepting that we are only holy through the blood of Christ. Jesus had tendencies and habits that he held in high regard, but He knew that it was not the habit itself that gave him access to the Father. It was His heart’s desire to be about whatever the Father wanted Him to be about. It was His willingness to immerse himself in anything Heaven oriented. That mindset gave him a hunger for the Word, for quiet time with God, and a desire to share what He knew with others. He desired to know God. As much as I value the practices of Jesus, I want to be after Him more than His practices. I want to press into who He is and gain a greater understanding of each individual member of the Trinity. Revelations of this will come from all avenues (disciplines) of the Christian faith, my priority is to keep my eyes on the goal and not the practices themselves.